Reviewed by Eric Atienza
the debut album from Ohio four-piece Flotation Walls
is a record that is impressive on first listen,
but handsomely rewards repeat plays as well.
The reproductively focused "Sperm and Egg"
kicks off the album with a glitchy, harp-accented,
operatic open giving way to a deceptively simple-sounding
accordion-led waltz. The song then proceeds in phases
as a tuba bursts in to accent the fertilization
theme while gestation hears the return of the harp
with a much more subdued vocal and a bit of synth
before dropping out in favor of simple chiming.
These musical themes repeat as the songs follows
a rise and fall of thickness and complexity. The
song is masterfully arranged as rhythms recur and
yet no musical phrase exactly repeats, culminating
in a chorus of background vocals over ambient drumming,
shifting the aesthetic from merry-go-round to an
As the album flows into track two the contrast of
the first track's sweet melodies with the driving
bass drum and deathly sinister guitar picking of
second track "Worms" provides quite the
splash of water/kick in the ass. The song is no
less textured than "Sperm and Egg" but
is much more dynamic offering subtle time changes
throughout but still maintaining a certain ebb and
flow between reediness and depth. The darker tones
fit the funereal lyrics perfectly and though the
subjects of these first two songs are diametrically
opposed (first sparks of life vs. final fade of
life) they both end in altar-inspired chants.
"Body" and "Willis the Fireman"
provide the best one-two punch on the record with
the former opening with an auspicious shot of horns
which are quickly joined by booming drums creating
a gigantic, grandiose framework. Frontman Carlos
Avendano fills the space softly with an almost-whispered
delivery and the gaps around him are taken immediately
by layers of keys, chimes, and drumrolls. It's perfectly
paced despite being so packed and deep building
a slow crescendo until, at the peak of tension,
the song falls into a chilling, goosebump-inducing
chasm of trembling violins as the lead vocal belts
the richest delivery heard yet on the album. The
latter song opens with about a minute and a half
of lullaby vocals over lilting guitars and sparse
drums before turning on a dime and establishing
itself as the most dynamic song on Nature.
Driving drums quickly burst out among echoing harmonies,
bubbling together in a roiling mix before exploding
into a deep, hook-laden, fast-paced, rollicking
"The Sky Ejaculates" works along similar
lines starting with a solitary piano backing lonely
lead vocals; the duo staggering wearily yet supporting
each other through the dark night of loss. As the
setup finishes, the song delivers a floating, beautifully
flowing verse before settling into dark piano once
again this time serving as a launching pad for a
ragged, frustrated shout evocative of thunderstorms
and desperate measures.
Throughout the album Flotation Walls displays a
transcendental command of harmonic backing vocals
and the open of "I've Seen Death and his Tremendous
Pink Eyes" exhibits the band at their most
sacred. After the back-and-forths of previous songs
between sweet and acidic, this track serves as the
sound of acceptance, resolution, and moving on.
That it reaches such stability while remaining aurally
inviting and challenging is quite a feat.
The instrumentations on Nature are so compelling
that it's easy to slip into a purely auditory listening
mode while glossing over the themes of the record.
It's an album that revolves around not only life
and death (more specifically the processes involved
in living and dying) but also the fragments of one
in the other. The hope intrinsic to tragedy and
the horror involved with dreaming. It's an album
that celebrates the affinity of opposites and the
beauty that comes with realizing that life is complex
and full even in its simplest instants. Each moment
is an occasion for both celebration and mourning
for after all, what are the stars without the night,
or the shade without the sun? This is an incredibly
successful record on all fronts: at once lyrically
inspiring and musically inspired.
Flotation Walls is currently touring in support
of Nature and will be playing an acoustic
set at Pete's Candy Store in Williamsburg on July
5th, and an electrified set at the Lit Lounge in
the East Village on July 7th.